GPS to Replace Radar

Even though the contract to develop GPS (Global Positioning Systems) for the aviation industry was given to ITT by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, it was only in 2009 that the urgency to switch over from radar to GPS was acknowledged. More than two hundred passengers traveling on Air France Flight 477 were lost over the Atlantic Ocean when the radar system failed to located the missing aircraft. Radar can only pick up aircraft that are within two hundred miles from the land, leaving aircraft traveling over the ocean in a vulnerable position.

Not being able to know an aircraft’s exact position makes it difficult for air traffic controllers to assist aircraft in emergency situations, and the necessity to upgrade the seventy year old radar system to new technology has become evident. One of the most valuable features of GPS systems is the fact that it is much more accurate than radar. Not only will ground personnel know exactly where aircraft are but pilots will also be able to see the location of other flights sharing their air space. Over and above having precise traffic information, pilots will also have accurate weather information available to them, promoting safer flights based on correct readings. David Melcher, Senior Vice President of ITT, explained in detail to the press the additional benefits of changing over from radar to GPS, saying: “There are numerous benefits to go to a GPS-based system, including savings of fuel, less carbon-dioxide emissions and better-controlled ascents and descents.”

It will take approximately ten years for the new generation GPS system to be installed in every aircraft, from domestic to private aircrafts, but the infrastructure to begin the transformation will be ready in 2012. Because of the accuracy of the GPS Systems, airplanes will be able to follow more direct routes, as they currently have to fly in winding patterns to allow tracking beacons to record their path. This, in turn, will lower the expenses in air travel as less fuel will be consumed, and less carbon dioxide will be emitted with the reduced flying times. In general, GPS will improve safety and benefit the aviation industry and public on financial levels.